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Of Love and Evil (Songs of the Seraphim, Book 2) Hardcover – Deckle Edge, November 30, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
In Rice's slim second Songs of the Seraphim novel (after Angel Time), the angel Malchiah whisks ex-contract killer Toby O'Dare back to 16th-century Rome, where Toby must save Vitale de Leone, a young Jewish physician who's been implicated in the poisoning of his gentile master and accused of bringing a poltergeist-like dybbuk into the household. Toby resolves both problems efficiently, but tragedy ensues, shaking his faith and leaving him vulnerable to powers of evil lying in wait to exploit his weakness. Toby's life back in modern times also grows complicated with the sudden appearance of an ex-lover and the son he never knew, neither of whom he can share his angelic interventions with. Though the plot is surprisingly similar to that of its predecessor, Rice's fans will easily succumb to the charm of her lapidary prose and a cliffhanger ending that sets up the next book in the series. 200,000 first printing. (Dec.) (c)
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Toby O’Dare, the assassin who started on the path to redemption in Angel Time (2009), continues his quest for salvation. He has just learned that he’s the father of a 10-year-old boy and is nervously awaiting the arrival of his former lover, Liona, and their son at the Mission Inn in California. He longs to be a part of the boy’s life and to rekindle his relationship with Liona, but he is summoned on another time-traveling errand of mercy by the angel Malchiah. This time Toby is transported to fifteenth-century Rome to respond to the prayer of a Jewish physician named Vitale, whose best friend and patient, Niccolò, has clearly been poisoned. Given the city’s virulent anti-Semitism, Vitale is at risk if the real culprit isn’t discovered. In addition to helping Vitale save Niccolò, Toby must discover the origins of an angry spirit that is haunting the house Vitale lives in. Toby is surprised by the dangers he faces in a story shaped by Catholic doctrine. Readers who enjoy Rice’s larger-than-life tales and elegant writing will find much to appreciate here, and the cliff-hanger ending will leave fans eager for the next installment. --Kristine Huntley
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O'Dare travels to Rome during time of the loss of power of the Medici in Florence (Savonarola) and during Jewish persecution in Rome. He is sent to discover what is causing a dybbuk (spirit) to continue to haunt a house and a particular family. I think I am dissatisfied with this particular novel set in this particular time period because I am comparing it to the works of Sarah Dunant, especially The Birth of Venus, and there is just no comparison. Of course, Ms. Rice did research on the time period and even a particular event in Rome, but the scholarly results are just not woven as magically and as deeply as with Ms. Dunant's efforts. Not that much time seems to have passed between the first book in the angel series, Angel Time, and this one, and perhaps not enough time was given for the next deadline, but I am a little disappointed in this effort. I still have not read any of Ms. Rice's vampire books, just her angel-themed ones and her Christ-themed ones after her return to Catholicism a few years ago.
A little before Of Love and Evil was published, Ms. Rice's subsequent leaving of Christianity and organized religion was in the news. If you follow her on Facebook, you know how interactive she is with her followers and how she posts current events and asks provocative questions about a number of issues. I really enjoy the discourse she encourages. Her postings are usually either informative or controversial and I appreciate her accessibility to the "people of the page." This regular discourse and dialect might be another reason I am somewhat disappointed in Of Love and Evil. I just did not care about the characters in Rome that she introduced. The threads of this tale just were not interwoven to the extent to get me emotionally involved. I did enjoy the continued story of Toby and his personal redemption from assassin to angel assistant, but his story is only one aspect of this short novel. Ms. Rice does create another dilemma in O'Dare's continuing drama, and I will read the next one.
I will recommend this book as a quick and easy read, but did not enjoy this effort as much as I had hoped or as much as the four previous books of Ms. Rice's that I have read.
After reading the first five chapters or so I thought to myself, Mrs. Rice is losing her touch. However, once Toby got to Italy the story started to really move and I found myself turning the pages with anticipation. The characters Toby meets in the past are especially well drawn and her prose is as vivid as ever. Remember, even though Mrs. Rice is a devout Catholic, this is fiction not theology. However, her historical setting is spot on. You can tell a lot of research went into this little book. This is not her best work, but stick with it and I think you'll enjoy it.